Bow Willow Campground
to Southwest Grove Loop
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate
- Distance: 3 miles (roundtrip)
- Approximate Time: 3 hours (roundtrip from trailhead)
Start this hike at the western edge of Bow Willow Campground. located 1.5 miles west of Highway S-2. Limited parking is available at the trailhead with additional parking for up to 20 vehicles in an area 75 yards east of the campground entrance. The first 100 yards is through the very broad and sandy Bow Willow Creek. Large specimens of desert willow lie in a fine example of Colorado Desert woodland.
Head due north following the wide trail marked occasionally with wooden stakes painted with a yellow band on top. After 1/4 mile of easy walking, a fork will be encountered. Staying to the right fork you will gradually gain elevation while skirting around the base of the Terra Blanca Mountains. Named for the white rock that dominates this small range, the Terra Blancas are composed of a type of granite called tonalite. About one mile after the first trail junction, the path drops over a boulder-strewn ridge into a drainage.
Cross the drainage, and in less than 100 yards, another trail junction will be encountered. Keep to the left trail heading west. You will soon meet one of the most magnificent palm groves in Anza-Borrego. Containing over 100 large California Native Palms (Washingtonia filifera) Southwest Grove is a true desert oasis. A year-round spring supplies water to a serene pool surrounded by a thriving community of palms. All ages of palms can be found at this lushly shaded eden. Desert animals are attracted in great numbers to this remarkable forest surrounded by the harsh cactus-covered hillsides.
Near the lower end of the Southwest Grove follow the trail sign towards Torote Bowl. After a 1/4 mile of easy switchbacks, a junction will be encountered. The right fork trail, about a 1/4 mile in length, leads to Torote Bowl. This rocky slope is home to dozens of the unusual, low growing Elephant Trees. These bizarre trees, sometimes looking more like a shrub, are rare in California and were considered to have magical properties by the local Indians. The highly aromatic sap was collected, dried, was used medicinally and for ceremonial purposes by Kumeyaay shamans. The left fork trail, a little over 1/2 mile in length, takes you back to the first fork, only 1/4 mile from Bow Willow Campground.
Source: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
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